Over The Limit
Warning: This is a veeeery long one ...
Well, I finally made it to “Over the limit”! One of my favourite episodes, although it took me a long time and many rewatching hours to figure it out. And I’m not quite sure, if I really got the whole thing.
There are many ways to interpret this episode, and I’m going to choose one that might be a little surprising, because it’s a bit different to the main stream. As I said, I’m not sure if I figured it out completely.
First I must point out, that I interpret this episode on the basis of its placing in the third season, and I’m not going with the airing order, but with the order that goes along the sense in the development of Lee’s and Amanda’s relationship. Although I must add that I made a little arranging of the episodes myself, too, so that the development of characters (and the appearing of the Q-Bureau) makes more sense.
I watched the first few episodes in this order:
Welcome to America, Mr. Brand
The tail of the dancing weasel
A lovely little affaire
We’re off to see the wizard
Over the limit
So my interpretation is based upon this episode-order. And perhaps I might warn you: It will be kind of a complex analysis and there for going to be a little long. But I’d be glad if some of you manage to go through that long ramble and see, if it makes any sense.
I’ll start by remembering where we stand at this point with Lee and Amanda.
Not long ago we had ā€˛A lovely little affair“. I’m not going to repeat my analysis of this ep, but it is important for the interpretation of this episode, so maybe you’d like to go to the other thread first and read my comments to completely unterstand, what I mean.
At the end of ALLA (tag) Lee invites Amanda out to a Verdi festival, but he doesn’t do it openly. He planned a setup, pretending to teach her a lesson about how to make contact with a stranger and so on, you all know the story. And he kind of makes a joke out of it, too: ā€˛Hey toots …“
His last words are: ā€˛See how easy that was?“ Referring to how easy it was to make that contact. At least that’s the main text. But there’s a subtext in it: Lee telling himself, how easy it was to ask Amanda out for a date. He obviously was a little nervous about it, that’s why he created that kind of setup to do it. He knew that he wanted to spend more time with her, private time, which he always refused to even think about in the earlier days of their relationship. He always wanted their relationship to be just business related. Now he realizes that he wants more and that scares him a lot, especially because he is still far away from admitting his true feelings for Amanda. But he is on his way to realize them and at least admit them to himself. The beginning was in ā€˛Burn out“ and from there on every episode was one more step. Now IMO ā€˛Over the limit“ is his last step in realizing his true feelings and admitting them to himself (not to anybody else of course). Thats the condition or premise for my interpretation.
Now, what happens at the beginning of OTL? I do not intend to write much about the baddies and the crime story in this episode, because I never paid much attention to it. For me it was just a case built around the major turning point in Lee’s feelings and of course it helped in some sequences to push the plot along.
Okay, we have Billy, Francine and Amanda and some random agents in the bullpen. Billy announces that it is spring cleaning time and gives some files of new groups to the agents. He wants to know who, what, where and why they are. Okay.
And then, in comes Lee, the ā€˛midnight rambler“. OMG is he looking crumpled! Immediately Francine points out that the last time he looked that way he had been assigned to some swordswallower (no, juggler) of the russian circus.
Okay, everyone gets this suggestion: Lee must have been out all night with a new girl.
And what says Lee (to Amanda)?
ā€˛It’s insomnia, that’s all.“
So at least most people, who watch this episode, and in the bullpen (Francine, Billy), as well, believe, that this is just an excuse/lie. Billy even thinks it’s necessary to give Lee a subtle hint: “Take care of her!”, glancing up and down Lees crumpled appearance. He surely didn’t just mean the crackpots out on the streets, but also it said: “Don't risk losing her, you idiot."
I thought about that insomnia issue for a long time, rewatched the scene several times and still am not sure about it. There are some points that bother me a lot. And it’s not Lee possibly seeing another woman. It’s something else.
First of all: Why do we all believe (on first sight) that he was out with Leslie that night and the three previous nights? Look at Leslie, she is a perfectly nice and normal woman, she is not the type that goes out all night (several nights in a row!) and she also isn’t the type who jumps quickly into bed with a man that she just got to know (for some weeks, a month perhaps?) That doesn’t fit.
So what does that tell us? Had he been out with some other random woman although he was seeing Leslie on and off for some weeks? I must say that I cannot believe that. Lee might be a womanizer, but I never saw him that bad, dating more than one woman at a time.
And that brings up the question: What did he do these four nights? Not sleep, of course. But why and where? And why are we so damn determined to believe the worst of him? Including Amanda, I must add, she also believes the girl-story (that he never confirmed).
Can it be that the insomnia-thing wasn’t a lie? That it was the pure truth? Yes, it can. Let me explain, how I come to this thought:
Lee’s character is at a very difficult point here for several reasons. He found out how important Amanda is to him and how great their friendship actually is. He also realizes that there might be more, that he wants to spend time with her to get to know her better. But that doesn’t fit into the picture he has of himself. The loner with just some Randi-Baby girlfriends, not emotionally involved with anybody, especially not with a little houswife from Armington, mother of two, a mortgage and a station wagon. Even if he values her a lot now, he still has this picture of himself in his head. But since ALLA he has begun to try to change parts of this picture by asking her out for the opera, by opening up to her about his past in WOTSTWizard.
The same time, something else happened through the last three episodes:
In ALLA there was congresswoman Faber, who tortured him with his reports and expense vouchers f.i. for this women’s underwear. That not only stole his time, it also reminded him of his past and he suddenly felt awkward about that, because he realized, that he has outgrown such adventures, that he now wouldn’t like some more of them. He even doesn’t like to be reminded of them.
In WOTSTWizard the same thing happenes, but even worse: He has to commit that he owns four little black books with names of women he dated, and that in front of Amanda! The look he gave her at that moment, shows that this might have caused him some headache later on.
And even in OTL there’s this reference to his past (russian circus), which makes perfect sense to everybody, including Amanda. What could you expect from a man with this ā€˛steamy“ past? Right, the worst. He must have been playing his old games. But the last example does not refer to his insomnia, it is just to show how people jump to conclusions.
Back to Lee’s insomnia:
Take Lee’s struggle with his character development, his growing need to get closer to Amanda and all this reference about his past and you get, I think, a nice little cocktail that might cause some sleepless nights even for a man less in denial than Lee is.
For me it is possible to believe that he really suffered from insomnia, considering everything that must be on his mind right then. I think he more and more mused what the hell was up with him. He had a problem with himself and his feelings fighting and crawling within him.
Can this be a possible explanation for this insomnia-scene? I think it can.
Now let’s go on to the next bothering scene:
Amandas gown and Lee’s questions about it, because he’d like to give a present to one of his friends, who would look gorgeous in something like that. Of course I feel for Amanda here. She didn’t know what to answer to that. I wouldn’t have known either.
That is one of the biggest, if not the biggest faux pas Lee ever did with Amanda. Luckily he realized it right after he did it, but too late to take it back it was anyway.
So what is this scene all about? Why could Lee do something like that?
He still was distracted by his thoughts, he even said he was a little preoccupied. And to Amanda’s direct question he told her, that he didn’t have a date, but Lesly was on his mind anyway, because he knew that there was this party at the embassy and that they both were invited and wanted to go there together.
Okay, what about his relationship with Leslie? The 1 millon dollar question, isn’t it? Why did he date her in the first place? Let me try to explain my point of view:
Since ALLA Lee had begun changing bit for bit his picture about himself. All his life he dated those Randi-Babies and was happy with it. He liked them, but nothing more. No deep feelings involved. Right? Okay. Now he realizes a change; he suddenly begins to enjoy the company of a woman like Amanda, a ā€˛normal“ woman. And if we keep in mind, that he still is in deep denial about her and his feelings for her – what kind of conclusion might have come to his mind? I think it looks like that:
He was surprised by himself that he wanted to date with Amanda. Or better: With a woman like Amanda. So he thought: ā€˛Okay, that’s a new thing, but I’m fine with it. So I’ll go out look for such normal women and go on with dating them. New experience, but okay, maybe I get old or something.“
So he looked out for someone normal, someone similar to Amanda, because (remember: denial) he wasn’t ready to see, or admit to himself, that it was this special woman he wanted, not just the type of woman.
He found Leslie, she fit perfectly into his picture. She was a nice, good looking and very normal person. So he began to go out with her and saw, that it was as easy as he expected it to be after he experienced how easy it was to ask Amanda out.
Another point is that Lee stayed on solid ground with Leslie, on ground he knew and felt comfortable with, because here no deep feelings were involved either. He sure liked Leslie, but not more than all the women he dated before. The whole difference was that Leslie was ā€˛normal“. Did I make clear what I wanted to explain?
Lee wanted to replace Amanda (or see if that was possible) by Leslie, not Leslie the person, but Leslie the type of normal woman (like Amanda). If that had worked out he wouldn’t have had to change the whole of the picture about himself but only part of it: He still could have been the loner dating women, but just another type of women than before. That this didn’t work very well we can see by the whole insomnia-issue …
He begins to realize his dilemma as well when he sees Amanda’s reaction to his question about the white gown. He knows he has made a mistake by even talking to Amanda about this new friend of his and his wish to give her a gown like Amanda’s as a present. He might not have caught Amanda’s jealousy at this point, but he realized that what he did wasn’t good. I think at this point he did the whole asking partly subconciously. He was, up to then, more used to open up to her and tell her about private things. It didn’t enter his mind that this special problem wasn’t something to discuss with her of all people.
Okay, guys, I’ve warned you. This is going to be a very looooong ramble and I’m just half way through it.
Let’s go on:
The next key moment is after the explosion at the rally. Lee looking for Amanda, almost freaking, because he can’t find her at once. Then his relief when he spots her standing on the hill. He runs to her (yes, runs!), pulls her into his arms and comforts her. In his embrace you can see all his true feelings for her and that she is the most important person in his life. But of course that doesn’t enter his mind completely. Not yet. Anyway it is another point to add to the distress he finds himself in. The emotional ups and downs through the last few weeks, now this shocking thought that Amanda might have been hurt or even killed by the bomb. And the next thing we see is Amanda and Lee in the bullpen after Amanda told Billy, that she wanted to help Elizabeth Sullivan. Lee wants to stop her and then comes her line, forced by nothing else but the green eyed monster:
ā€˛Well, with the sleep you’ve been missing and the new girlfriend and all I’m surprised you noticed!“
Here we see that Amanda as well is in a kind of distress. She is not a jealous person, I think she thinks that she has no right to be jealous. But after all what happened lately between them, the opera, the conversations during the Wizard case, she obviously was disappointed, that Lee went on dating other women as if nothing had happened. Maybe it also became clear to her that she had expected too much of him. He wasn’t ready (or from her point of view willing) to go any further in their relationship. She had to notice and understand that she had to be patient and accept, that there was still nothing else than friendship between them.
Lee was obviously puzzled by Amanda’s reaction here. ā€˛Who said I have a new girlfriend?“
Well, you did yourself, Lee, remember the white gown?
It is interesting though, that he doesn’t seem to see Leslie as his girlfriend. But as a friend. Denial again?
So on we go to the police station. Amanda wants to talk to Elizabeth; and look, who is there: Lee! And he managed to get Elizabeth out of jail, so that she was able go home with her family.
His face when Amanda asked him, if he did this, tells everything. Yes, he did, and he did it only for Amanda. He didn’t want her to be angry about him. I think he still hadn’t caught, that she was jealous, at least not consciously. He thought she was angry, because it looked like he didn’t want to help her, that he had better / other things to do, that he just wasn’t interested in the case or Amanda’s feelings about it. So he went straight to the police office to manage things. But he seemed to be a little embarrased, that he did it and that Amanda caught him in action. On the other hand he was happy that she seemed to have forgiven him (whatever was to forgive).
Elizabeth is back to prison, Lee and Amanda are investigating and after that go to Lee’s apartment (to do what???).
And now there is it: my favourite scene of this episode and one of the most important (IMO) of the whole series.
Who is in Lee’s apartment? Yes, Leslie. She didn’t want to wait in her hotel so she persuaded the doorman to let her into Lee’s apartment to surprise him with dinner. That would have been nice under different circumstances. But at that point it was the worst nightmare Lee had ever experienced.
Now he saw the two women together: the one he was actually dating and the one he really loved but denied to. That was just too much for him, you can see the stress on his face when he realized it was Leslie. But he acted as naturally as he could, hoping to get rid of at least one of the two as fast as possible.
Leslie spotted Amanda standing outside and invited her in, introduced herself and was all friendly and really nice.
Please don’t get the big knife out and run after me, but I don’t understand, why so many people think, Leslie is kind of weird. Actually I kind of like her. She’s a very nice and very open woman, good natured you might call her. And she really is the type of woman, who talks that openly to a stranger about something like the gown or the invitation to the embassy party. And thus it seems not weird to me that she asks Amanda to stay and tell her delicate secrets about Lee. I really don’t think she does this to test Amanda, get a reaction or that she thinks Amanda could be a threat. She’s just so nice, that she wants to talk so somebody about Lee, who she obviously likes a lot and wants to get to know better. And since she knows that Lee and Amanda work together, it is only natural that she thinks Amanda would be able to answer her questions and would also come to the party. She even asks, if they are going to meet all again soon and does not realize how awkward this is for Lee and Amanda. She just wants to be nice, that’s what I think.
And here’s, btw, another point that proves, Leslie isn’t the reason for the insomnia, at least not physically. She tells Amanda that she is just getting to know Lee. And the way she behaved makes me doubt, that there has been more than kissing between them up till now.
Now what about Amanda? She is shocked to see someone like Leslie in Lee’s apartmant. She surely expected another Randi Baby. That she could have handled with. But Lesly really is a threat to her. The green eyed monster jumps out with fork and knife, ready to catch and eat anyone who gets in its way. Amanda’s reaction is so obvious and natural here. With this Leslie-woman Lee has really driven her to the edge.
And worse, this woman is absolutely likable. If it were another situation, she and Amanda could very well have been friends. And this friendly woman wants Amanda to stay for dinner! Of course Amanda doesn’t want to – she just wants to get out of there as fast as possible.
And Lee helps her with that, altough Leslie’s face tells her surprise and a little disbelief that Lee puts away the extra plate that she just got on the table for Amanda.
Lee on the other side seems only to realize his own distress in that situation. Again he doesn’t see Amanda’s jealousy, but only his awkwardness that Amanda met Leslie and that these two women had to meet in his apartment of all places. So, to get rid of Amanda, he focused on business and drove her to the edge again by telling her to go home instead of working on the case. Amanda, still freaking out because of Leslie, now gets to explode.
Lee thinks it is all about the case, but that of course is only half the truth.
But her reaction gives him something think about anyway, even if just subconsciously. He immediately goes back to normal, has dinner with Leslie, pours her a glass of whine, gets on the couch and leans in for a kiss … but the telephone rings.
Stop!! Wasn’t there something else?!
Yes, exactly, Lee called Leslie Amanda.
And when he realizes it, his face speaks volumes. He covers his reaction quite quickly, but it surely gave him something to chew on. First he thought of Leslie and that led him to his faux pas with the gown question to Amanda, now it is the other way round. His mind is occupied with Amanda and he does another faux pas, even if it is ā€˛just“ a freudian slip.
Leslie doesn’t seem to care, she doesn’t know, what has been going on in his mind for such a long time now.
I think that this freudian slip is a – if not the (!) - key scene for Lee in admitting to himself that he has really deep feelings for Amanda. Feelings that can’t be denied any longer. She is on his mind all the time, even if he doesn’t notice it.
To Leslie he still pretends that everything is okay and normal, but the truth is, that everything has changed for him. At this minute, in his apartment, with Leslie by his side, he still can avoid any further thoughts about what happened. But even if the phone hadn’t rung and he had kissed her, it would not have made a difference. He would have realized that Leslie wasn’t the woman he was supposed to be kissing.
That again must have scared him to death, maybe that’s one of the major reasons, he did lean in for that kiss, to convince himself that nothing had changed. Remember: Admitting that he might be in love with a woman, especially with that special woman, would cause a change of the whole picture of his world and himself.
And remember what Dotty said a long time ago:
ā€˛Sometimes it is very painful to admit your true feelings, even to yourself.“
Then the tag:
After the setup Lee had to create in ALLA to ask Amanda out, he now takes a step further: He directly asks her out for dinner.
I think there are some reasons, and part of them can be related to the title of the episode ā€˛Over the limit“. It not only refers to the case they were working on, the over the limit fishing of Trans Oceanic Industries.
It also refers to Lee’s and Amanda’s relationship. In this episode Lee got over Amanda’s limits of patience and good will more than once.
First with his question about the gown, then with dating a woman like Leslie and also by sending Amanda home instead of listening to her reasons and helping her with watching O’Keefe.
Maybe part of him wantet to make up for all of this, but I think the major reason, that he asked her out and showed her that having dinner with her was more important to him than the embassy party with Leslie, is that he has finally comprehended that there was no use in dating other women any more.
I assume he had another sleepless night thinking about everything that happened and was said by him and Amanda. I don’t know, if he finally saw Amanda’s jealousy, I tend to think not, but he understood, that he did something, that made her really mad. He didn’t want to risk to lose her, so he made a decision. He stopped seeing Leslie (ā€˛She won’t be lonely, she’s working anyway …“) and made that clear to Amanda, implying that Leslie wasn’t or had ever been that important to him. He doesn’t mind, if Leslie meets someone else, because his feelings never had been involved with her.
His relationship with Leslie might have worked out perfectly with her, as he said, but only because he wouldn’t have had to think or worry about her much during the time they didn’t see each other. The dates with her were fine, but love there hadn’t been.
After this episode, we never see Lee dating another woman again. He stops it, because he finally understands, where his heart really is. And from now on another journey begins for him: Trying to find out about Amanda’s feelings and if they are similar to his. And then, when he gets more and more signs and hints, that Amanda might feel the way he does, he starts to find a way to tell/show her how he feels. Of course, there is a lot of bad timing and interruptions until he finally takes his chance. But finally he makes it – I’m looking forward to watching that special episode again. But the long journey is worth watching all the way.
Now I hope someone might read that long interpretation. I was just in the mood to write it down, even if it is one of the longest rambles I’ve ever written about SMK.
Hope it makes any sense and nobody passed out while reading it …
Quotes all from the episodes “Over the Limit”, “A lovely little affair” and “Lost and Found”.
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... you see, sometimes what people don't say is a lot more revealing than what they do say …
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